Page 3073 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 22 August 2017
The Greens recognise the role that clubs play in our community. Canberra has a wide range of clubs which have been part of the social fabric of this town for many years. Clubs are established to support people with shared cultural, professional or social interests, including multicultural communities, sports teams and activities such as lawn bowls. There are still more than 40 clubs in the territory, but the reality is that the environment that clubs operate in has changed and clubs need to evolve to make sure they are sustainable in the long term. Canberra’s clubs offer a great number of benefits to their members and local communities. Clubs provide a great place to meet up with some mates, have an affordable meal with their family or simply watch the footy. They provide venues for community group meetings and support local sporting clubs with sponsorship and facilities. There is no doubt that the clubs play a valuable role in our community.
At the same time many clubs continue to be overly reliant on revenue from poker machines in order to fund these sorts of services. We know that the risks of problem gambling are higher for people who play poker machines than for other types of gambling. The Productivity Commission reported that around 15 per cent of regular poker machine players are considered problem gamblers and that their share of total spending on these machines is estimated at around 40 per cent. The link between poker machines and problem gambling is clear, and that is why the Greens have led on this issue, because we believe that the social licence to profit from the pokies has expired.
Clubs have both a moral and a financial responsibility to diversify their business models away from a reliance on poker machine revenue. The moral imperative is that, as I have already mentioned, around 40 per cent of the revenue generated from these machines is estimated to come from people who experience harm as a result of their gambling on poker machines. For problem gamblers, their families and friends, poker machine addiction causes real harm, and we have a responsibility to put real protections in place to prevent this from happening.
Another aspect of this issue is that the number of people playing poker machines continues to decrease. Notably, the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission annual report anticipates an increase in gaming machine revenue in 2016-17 despite anecdotal evidence that fewer people are playing the pokies. This suggests that fewer people are putting more money into the pokies, even though the evidence suggests that at least 15 per cent of them are likely to experience harm from this. While poker machines continue to generate considerable revenue for clubs, they are no longer the preferred entertainment choice of most people in the ACT. At the same time they cause significant harm for a significant number of people in our community and, therefore, the choice is clear: it is time for clubs to diversify their business models and identify other revenue streams that will benefit their members and the ACT community.
We recognise that this process cannot happen overnight and that there are things the government can and should do to support clubs in this transition. From the public conversation that has taken place this year, it is apparent that the current reliance on